Bernard Tomic, an eminently sensible young man

Ben Pobjie Columnist

By Ben Pobjie, Ben Pobjie is a Roar Expert

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    The question, as always, is this: why do you care about Bernard Tomic?

    Of course many people genuinely don’t, and I applaud them. But there are many others – media commentators, former tennis stars, and fans – who care deeply about the man who was considered the shining hope of Australian tennis back in days of old, when the world was young and hope still dwelt among us.

    They care passionately, and are furious at the man. Their rage cannot be contained at Tomic’s disrespectful attitude, laziness, lack of commitment and general failure to have a go.

    Why is this so?

    The fact is that Tomic, like more than one local prodigy before him, has fallen foul of the great Law of Sporting Self-Analysis, the law that states one must never publicly state the obvious truth that a young man who happens to be very good at something which he’s not all that interested in, but which can provide a comfortable livingĀ for him if he ekes out the bare minimum of effort, would be foolish not to make that bare minimum and gather the harvest while he may.

    Whether Tomic is truly bored by the game and unwilling to do what it takes to succeed, or is just going through a moody phase, I don’t know. But if it’s the former, I don’t blame him at all.

    If I could travel the world raking in a fortune for playing a game I didn’t like much, without having to try all that hard, I would. I think most of us would. You’d be a sucker not to – deliberately choosing to avoid an easy path to riches isn’t really that intelligent.

    Of course, that also means I’m never going to be all that fussed about what happens in Tomic’s career. I wish him all the best, but I’m not going to cheer him on, because cheering a sportsman who doesn’t care whether he wins or loses is a mug’s game. If he won’t care, I won’t either, and as far as I can see everyone’s happy.

    Bernard Tomic mid swing

    (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

    So why are so many of us unhappy? Why does his lack of passion exercise us so? Why does it seem so important to some people that Bernard Tomic put in the hard yards, and why is it so offensive when he doesn’t?

    The reason is, in a nutshell, that he is Australian. If he wasn’t Australian we would care about him as much as we care about all the other non-Australians who never win tournaments: not at all. But because he is Australian we feel a sense of ownership over the man. We believe he owes us.

    This is not an attitude rooted in any kind of logic. Outside those rare tournaments like the Davis and Federation Cups, or the Olympics, tennis players don’t actually represent their countries, and even when they do, it’s at best in the way that our national cricket or football teams “represent” us: that is, they come from the same landmass that we do and wear colours denoting the fact, and that’s it.

    But obviously sporting fandom is not a logical exercise: if it was I wouldn’t still be planning to watch the Bledisloe Cup even though I know it will make me suicidal.

    The sporting community is an irrational assemblage, and when one among us sees through the fog enough to shine a light of reason on the absurdity, it should be done with the humility that comes with knowing we’re still just as absurd as all the rest.

    But still. Bernard Tomic hasn’t let you down. He hasn’t let me down. He hasn’t let anyone down except himself, and he seems pretty happy with his current arrangement, so not much to worry about there.

    His fellow players should, if anything, be grateful for his approach to the game, as it makes their jobs that little bit easier.

    And as for us, we have plenty of great tennis players to cheer for, true professionals who can always be relied upon to gratify our thirst for entertainment by treating the game they play with an obsessive earnestness wildly out of proportion to the objective significance it holds in the wider scheme of things.

    And for that we should be grateful, and leave young Bernard alone to live his life in whatever maddeningly sensible way he sees fit.

    Ben Pobjie
    Ben Pobjie

    Ben Pobjie is a writer & comedian writing on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys watching Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms.

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    The Crowd Says (50)

    • July 7th 2017 @ 8:56am
      Hazel Torres said | July 7th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      How right you are. If officials want to change things reduce pay packet so only the truly committed will play,that will put a cat among the etc, However if a young man can earn a good living from say a secondary tour , not 5 sets let them do so, and let them avoid the majors if they so desire. P.S I feel Bernard has a health problem that may emerge later. as he really seems to run out of energy. so why shouldn;t he just do as you say Earn just enough money to live the life he desires.

      • July 7th 2017 @ 3:15pm
        Matt said | July 7th 2017 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

        Tomic may have a health problem but I feel the main reason why he runs out of energy is Tomic is not fit enough. His fitness levels are so poor he can only last one and a half sets before he gets tired. Perhaps this explains why he plays so passive rather than going for his groundstrokes. Tomic needs to stop playing tennis for a couple of months and train in the Arizona desert and you will see a much different player. But tomic neefs to be prepared to do rhis. I see Tomic’s loss of motivation is due to him being worn out and losing interest as he is not fit enough to compete at this level. I would assume if Tomic was atbthe required fitness levels we would not be seeing these problems anf he would likely be inside the top 20. Until he improves dramatically fitness wise he may soon he lost to the game.

    • July 7th 2017 @ 9:27am
      Fadida said | July 7th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      His mistake is admitting his lack of interest. As mentioned in this discussion, there are plenty of people who don’t have their heart in their careers but still do to the best of their abilities. Or at least feign it!

      • July 7th 2017 @ 9:46am
        Sammy the Tank said | July 7th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Correct. How dare he be honest!

        We will know need to find another “perfect” athlete to live our lives vicariously through.

        • July 7th 2017 @ 9:58am
          northerner said | July 7th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          Meh. I admire great athletes but I’ve never lived vicariously through any of them. I like athletes who work their tails off, who don’t give up, and who treat their sport with respect. Those are qualities, by the way, which I admire in non-athletes as well. A lazy tennis player doesn’t impact on my life at all, but I’d very much prefer not to deal with a lazy surgeon who avoids practicing his skills, gets bored mid-operation, and is just in it for the money.

          • July 7th 2017 @ 11:53am
            Johnno said | July 7th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

            He’s not great he’s a loser just a tennis journeymen. His best effort is a paltry Q/F appearance at wimbledon and he’s about to turn 25 in a few months. Federer won plenty of grand slam titles by 25 and long time at world no 1. Tomic was hailed as the next big thing in tennis and gonna be world no 1 and win grand slam titles when instead, yet his best is all he can offer is being a teens journeymen. He’s no Federer.

          • July 7th 2017 @ 3:21pm
            Sammy the Tank said | July 7th 2017 @ 3:21pm | ! Report

            Northerner, your comparing a Tennis player to a surgeon? i get the feeling you take yourself very seriously.

            I like people who are honest! how great am i!!!!

            Nice opening speech as well…i hope you inspired yourself and had the Ride of the Valkyries playing in the background.

            Johnno…you lost me at loser. Stupid and full of hyperbole. No one who plays professional sport is a “loser”, and where did anyone say he was a Federer? I would also say his paltry effort of a Q/F is a lot better than yours. Am i correct?

            Just another wannabe judging professionals as if he knew…social media is so full of you heroes!

            • July 8th 2017 @ 9:21am
              northerner said | July 8th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

              WTF? Sammy, I don’t think it’s me who’s in danger of taking myself too seriously.

    • July 7th 2017 @ 10:09am
      Geoff Schaefer said | July 7th 2017 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      You’re on the money Ben. I think the thing that irks so many is that he and Krygios are Australian, which casts a shadow over the rest of us by association.

      • July 8th 2017 @ 4:54am
        Mitcher said | July 8th 2017 @ 4:54am | ! Report

        I’m inclined to think the vitriolic hate expressed by some of ‘us’ (not suggesting this is you at all Geoff) about the likes of Bernie and Nick reflects more poorly on us than their own actions.

        If worse comes to worst, don’t we just take the Dawn Fraser route and claim they’re foreigners (Canberra is pretty exotic after all).

    • July 7th 2017 @ 10:41am
      Bakkies said | July 7th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

      Tomic and sensible put together doesn’t make sense. He hasn’t reached his potential mainly due to his behaviour, inconsistent results on tour and attitude.

    • July 7th 2017 @ 11:00am
      Jacko said | July 7th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

      What a load of rubbish. I hope you’re being ironic.

    • July 7th 2017 @ 11:08am
      SDough said | July 7th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      Excellent article.

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